I know that in German the passive voice is formed with both sein and werden:

Das Haus wird gebaut


Das Haus ist gebaut

Are these two forms of the passive voice interchangeable?


2 Answers 2


Don't mix this, I guess this is a "false friend" for native English speakers. The passive of "I build the house/Ich baue das Haus" is "The house is built (by me)/Das Haus wird (von mir) gebaut" and not "Das Haus ist gebaut". The latter would rather mean "The house has been built" or to exaggerate that the "ist" is for describung a state "The house is something that has the property of having come to existence by a process of building". Or you can view "Das Haus ist gebaut" as meaning the same as "Das Haus ist bezugsfertig/The house is ready to move in"

  • Are the following examples correct and demonstrate well the idea? -- 1) Das fleisch ist gebraten. "The meat is fried". I.e. not raw. Here we describe a quality of the subject. Gebraten acts as an adjective. -- 2) Das fleisch wird gebraten. The meat is being fried. I.e. it is in the process of being fried. Here we describe an action that affects the subject. Gebraten acts as a participle.
    – Alexey
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 22:25

These are semantically completely different expressions: gefragt sein is a fixed expression, a trope, if you will, which means to be in demand

On the other hand gefragt werden is directly derived from fragen - ask and means being asked

  • This is not what I've asked. Replace the verb, and the question remains: there are two types of the passive voice in German, one of which is formed with sein, while the other is formed with werden. But I don't know when to use them correctly, although, technically, I know both their grammatical structures (as shown in the body of my question).
    – indoxica
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 13:17
  • 1
    You asked if the two forms are interchangeable and I answered "no". Here the difference between "Vorgangspassiv (process) - ich werde gefragt" and "Zustandspassiv (state)- ich bin gefragt" is at hand.
    – bouscher
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 13:25
  • OK. So what is the difference between Vorgangspassiv and Zustandspassiv? How can I use them correctly without using one in lieu of the other? Can you please tell me that?
    – indoxica
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 14:44
  • 1
    When the passive is built with present perfect participle an "werden" it is used to describe a process, something with beginning, end and a limited time frame. When built with present perfect participle and "sein" (or "bin" in this case) it describes a result or a state. Here it is the state of being always asked, so to speak, and thus being in demand. This is where the fixed expression "gefragt sein" derives its meaning from. Did this clarify a bit?
    – bouscher
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 15:04
  • @indoxica: Wenn Deine Frage unklar ist, dann solltest Du sie verbessern, nicht andere auffordern es für Dich zu tun. Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 21:20

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